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Requiem for a Dream

Darren Aronofsky's controversial and critically acclaimed 2000 film adaptation of Hubert Selby, Jr.'s novel.

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Aronofsky's grand "Requiem"; beautiful, artistic, and realistic.

  • Jan 17, 2011
***1/2 out of ****

Darren Aronofsky's "Requiem for a Dream" asks the question: what is a drug? After watching this film, I just don't know how to provide a proper answer. Such an intense experience leaves you feeling drained; and I've been finding that a lot lately with Aronofsky's films in particular. Don't worry; it's a good kind of drained that I'm feeling; the kind you get from staring too much at too many things. "Requiem" has so much going on that it's almost overwhelming, and the film is like the cinematic equivalent to a bad car crash; it's visually repulsive yet you just can't look away. Maybe "Requiem for a Dream" is better since it's good enough to capture the viewer to the point where they wouldn't dare turn their backs, although I'm perfectly fine with someone just not wanting to watch the film due to its intensity. Prior to watching it, I had heard mixed things about Aronofsky's grand "Requiem". I had heard somewhere that it sucked big time, and then from professional critics and fellow film lovers I had heard that while it's a pretty hardcore production, it's ultimately rewarding through filmic art. The first thing was completely misleading. I thought that "Requiem for a Dream" was absolutely beautiful and lovingly crafted. While it's graphic in nature and intense from start to finish, everything shown is in the film for a reason. As Aronofsky said; stripping any of the content from the film would be like stripping it of its beauty. You can't do that to a film like this; you need to let it be what it is. It's an artistic film that puts a rather frightening and mind-boggling twist on Drug Movies, even if according to Aronofsky, "Requiem" isn't even one to begin with. If it is in fact a Drug Movie, then it's a whole new breed of the former. When comparing it to other Drug Movies such as "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", all you have to say is that "Requiem" makes you not want to take drugs even more. In Terry Gilliam's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", drugs were played for both comedic and nightmarish effect. In "Requiem for a Dream", drugs are only the second thing. They are a gateway to our greatest nightmares; and there's no comedy involved in it. Aronofsky's psychological nightmare is as visually intoxicating as it is intensely moving; a true art film by any other name. This is the work of a visionary, and the imagery is hard to forget. Not many people will have the will to stomach it, but if you think you can then please pursue the film. I feel bad for those who just can't ponder it, because they're missing out on one of the best films of the year 2000. They're also missing out on one of the few films that draws the line between disturbing, nauseating, and powerful. "Requiem" is all of those things. And that's what I loved about it.

The film tells the story of a widow, her son, her son's girlfriend, and her son's best friend. Each character has one thing in common; they are turning to drugs for happiness. The widow is seeking the health guidance of dieting pills, which cause her to hallucinate and eventually go mad. Her son Harry is addicted to heroin and has developed an infectious wound on one of his arms. Harry's girlfriend and best mate are also addicted to heroin, and his friend often helps him do odd jobs in order to acquire it. If anything, the film is classified as a drama. Drug Film is not technically a genre but it is a kind of film, and I don't think "Requiem" technically even falls under the category anyways. Some will criticize the film saying that it's the first real drug exploitation film to both blow their minds and set them in a particularly depressed mood after it was finished. I argue against this, and I think the film exists to show just how horrible drugs really are. If anything, I think Aronofsky wants us to reconsider before we snort a line or take that next injection. I think that the story he tells here is supposed to depict people in trouble, and how drugs have only momentarily helped the situation. In the end, everyone is driven to near-complete insanity. They all face some sort of consequence for their usage of the selective drug. The story here is powerfully written, and the content really helps to move it along as one of the most intense, emotionally resonant films I've seen in a while. You feel the pain of these characters, and no matter how much you may want to look away from their ordeals, you'll keep looking. Whether you like the movie or not, it's near impossible to look away. I think you deserve an achievement if you even had the strength to walk out of the film before it finished. But hey: at least you missed the worst (as in best) part of the film, which is near the end. It's the kind of intense, psychological climax that only a true genius like Aronofsky could put together. I really admire what he's done here.

The star who I felt shined the most was Ellen Burstyn. I know Burstyn from "The Exorcist", and I also know that she's a perfectly capable actor. Her performance in "Requiem for a Dream" is so darned phenomenal because she's so darned believable (as a woman under the influence of hallucinogenic pills). Burstyn is one of the many actors in this film that has the capacity to bring us closer to the madness; closer to the psychological mayhem. I lover her performance to the ends of the earth. Jared Leto was also extremely convincing as Burstyn's heroin-addicted son. His performance was the equivalent of an every-day dope, and that' why I found it to be so believable. Jennifer Connelly puts on a perfectly eccentric performance for her part in this film, and this is what I believe to be one of her best performances yet. Even better is Marlon Wayans, who really seems to prove that he can expand his talents outside of comedy and actually do surprisingly better. There are also a couple cameos from Sean Gullette (the star of Aronofsky's "Pi") and Keith David thrown in there for you viewing pleasure. It's a party of psychologically confused characters played by less-than-confused actors.

"Requiem" is somewhat of a psychological drama. It consistently switches out from the lives of the three younger characters to that of the widow. The elder woman seems to be in the most psychological pain since her pills make her hallucinate in less than fascinating ways. In other drug films such as "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", hallucinations have had the capacity to be wondrous and funny. In "Requiem for a Dream", they're meant to be just flat-out frightening. I loved these sequences because they highlighted what Aronofsky is all about. I liked how most of his films have a psychological feel to them and I think that this is the right style for him. Throw in some particularly disturbing imagery and I'm essentially sold. Some will say that Aronofsky's film is twisted and too intense for them to stomach. I can understand that, but those are the kind of people that just shouldn't be criticizing "Requiem" to begin with. They don't understand it for what it is. It's a film that is meant to be so graphic that it is artistic; so intense that it is beautiful. I think that if Aronofsky intended any of the above, then he was a most grand success. "Requiem" is a wonderful, one-of-a-kind viewing experience, to say the least. The cinematography is flawless and Clint Mansell's beautiful score both help to make it stylish as well as psychologically in-tact. It's not for the faint of heart, but if you can sit through it without completely hating it then congratulations; you've just watched one of the most disturbing but profoundly artistic films of the decade. It's a sort of magical film; if your idea of magical comes closer to madness than flat-out fascination. There's so much good filmmaking going on here that you sort of have to let go of how intense and grotesque "Requiem" may be and just enjoy it because it's damn good filmmaking. That's what I did. But maybe that's because I enjoy a good thought-provoking drama once in a while; even if some of the thoughts could stir up a bit of a controversy amongst people who just don't get the overall point.

"Requiem for a Dream" is a film which I think all film lovers should see. Most will not be able to watch it all the way through; as it is quite an intense but very well-worth-your-while sort of ride. It's a beautiful film in its own way and there's not another quite like it; as most drug films are either comedic or not as deep as this one here. Aronofsky has created a memorable film that is perhaps memorable because of its own dramatic depth, and not to mention the unforgettable but graphic imagery. You won't forget this film once you've seen it; it's special like that. It's not quite perfect, but it's pretty near there. I think that it should have been nominated for Best Picture since it has nearly all the things that an Oscar Nominee should have; an excellent cast, an excellent story, excellent visuals, and a unique sense of unforgettable finesse. But then again, it might be too intense for the Academy. Maybe that's why it didn't get as much recognition as it deserved. I believe that it's a film that will divide viewers, but those who enjoy it will most likely love it. If you do love it then all I can say is good for you. It's a film made for art and only art; rather than the exploitation that some have accused it of. It's going to be misunderstood; all films of its type are. If it's daring, then people will go on to attack it. All I can say for Aronofsky is for him to ignore any criticisms. There's nothing he could have done to make this movie any more or less appealing. It's a film that will appeal to just about anyone who gives it a chance and doesn't mind the subject matter, but I must remember that not everyone out there has such a strong stomach. But if I happen upon someone who does, then it's an easy recommendation. However, I don't suspect it's a film I will recommend to just anyone, as it will prove far too intense for some. All I know is that it's a film that will stick with me, and Clint Mansell's "Lux Aeterna" still rings and lingers in the back of my mind. That's how priceless it may as well be.

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January 17, 2011
sweet review. This is one of the movies that I loved but still need to own. I need to get that director's cut for sure!
January 18, 2011
Yeah. It doesn't do as much as a Director's Cut for another Aronofsky film, "The Fountain" would, but it makes some scenes more graphic and overall a little more effective.
January 17, 2011
Oh man this is a 5 star classic for me for sure, great review.
January 17, 2011
January 17, 2011
I love this movie from start to finish. It's definitely on of the starkest, most harrowing depictions of addiction and self-destruction I've ever seen. Remember those PSA commercials with the frying egg that said "This is your brain on drugs"? So stupid. Now, this film is an effective deterrent to drug addiction... and TV... and trend diets.
January 17, 2011
Yes. If one was seeking info on drug addiction and the dangers of it, then I'd recommend they see this film. It's the most accurate depiction of drug addiction I've seen on-film possibly in my whole life, and it's truly unforgettable and riveting.
January 17, 2011
Another great film is the Australian drama "Candy" starring Heath Ledger and Abbie Cornish as two drug addicted lovers who ruin each other's lives.
January 17, 2011
I think I've heard of it. Perhaps I should see it.
January 17, 2011
Yeah, the performances are amazing.
January 17, 2011
I bet.
More Requiem for a Dream reviews
Quick Tip by . May 18, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
I can see what all the fuss is about, and why this movie still gets talked about more than a decade after its release.  Aronofsky pulls out all the stops, and this is one of the most relentlessly directed movies I've seen in a long time.   It's effective, but in a weird, kind of converse way.   Addiction looks terrible, yes, but getting a haircut would look pretty hellish if Aronofsky filmed and cut it the way he did the final twenty minutes of this film.  It made me …
Quick Tip by . July 26, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
One of the most terrifying and provacative stories I have seen about the destructive power of addiction, and the many forms that that can take when we give ourselves over to pleasure and abandon purpose.
Quick Tip by . June 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
An absolute masterpiece of the modern cinema, Darren Aronofsky's dark meditation on themes of addiction, desperation, and self-destruction is one of the most important films of the new millennium. A brilliantly directed and acted film with an incredible score by Clint Mansell and the Kronos Quartet.
Quick Tip by . July 06, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Shows how addictions can appear in many different ways, and how it can affect your life. Such an amazing and powerful film.
Quick Tip by . July 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Wow. Powerful. Disturbing. And proved Marlon Wayan can do more than just crappy movies w/ his brothers.
Quick Tip by . January 21, 2010
posted in Screen Gems
A stark film that looks deep into the human psyche and really shows the downward spiral of addiction with an unflinching eye. Terrific film!
review by . November 13, 2008
Requiem For A Dream
Requiem is one of those little known movies, quietly powerful, that will leave you reeling with emotion in its wake. Even unfeeling husks like myself will not escape unscathed.     This is a beautifully mastered film about drug addiction, but not in standard, drugs-are-bad format. Harry Goldfarb (Jared Leto) is a junkie who dreams of being a better person but still regularly hawks his mother's battered TV set for fix money. He and his friend Tyrone Love (Marlon Wayans) and girlfriend …
review by . December 17, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Performances, cinematic style, and story line despite the mood      Cons: None for me, but the very bleak nature of it will turn many off      The Bottom Line: There are films with unpleasant things to say but that need saying. Requiem should be near the top of this imaginary list.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie''s plot.      There have been more than a hundred reviews …
review by . November 05, 2002
posted in Movie Hype
REQUIEM FOR A DREAM is disturbing, strange, emotionally riveting, and ultimately devasting. All of those adjectives would seem like a redlight to NOT view this film, but the brilliance of this creation by Darren Aronofsky after Hubert Selby, Jr.'s book does what few films do - it makes a gut-wrenching learning experience. From the hardcore heroin addiction to the even more terrifying addiction to doctor-prescribed "medication" drugs we are shown the gamut of how cruel this disease of addiction is …
review by . June 16, 2001
Pros: Electrifying, painfully real...     Cons: None...     The Bottom Line: Show it your children as an educational tool!     Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot. Exhausted! Mentally and emotionally drained to the point of stunned numbness, is how my spouse and I felt after watching Requiem for a Dream. We both sat on the couch for several moments after the movie ended watching the credits go by in complete …
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Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #3
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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Employing shock techniques and sound design in a relentless sensory assault,Requiem for a Dreamis about nothing less than the systematic destruction of hope. Based on the novel by Hubert Selby Jr., and adapted by Selby and director Darren Aronofsky, this is undoubtedly one of the most effective films ever made about the experience of drug addiction (both euphoric and nightmarish), and few would deny that Aronofsky, in following his breakthrough filmPi, has pushed the medium to a disturbing extreme, thrusting conventional narrative into a panic zone of traumatized psyches and bodies pushed to the furthest boundaries of chemical tolerance. It's too easy to call this a cautionary tale; it's a guided tour through hell, with Aronofsky as our bold and ruthless host.

The film focuses on a quartet of doomed souls, but it's Ellen Burstyn--in a raw and bravely triumphant performance--who most desperately embodies the downward spiral of drug abuse. As lonely widow Sara Goldfarb, she invests all of her dreams in an absurd self-help TV game show, jolting her bloodstream with diet pills and coffee while her son Harry (Jared Leto) shoots heroin with his best friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) and slumming girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly). They're careening toward madness at varying speeds, and Aronofsky tracks this gloomy process by endlessly repeating the imagery of their deadly routines. Tormented by her dietary regime, Sara even imagines a carnivorous refrigerator in one...

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Director: Darren Aronofsky
Genre: Drama
Release Date: October 6, 2000
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 1hr 42min
Studio: Artisan Entertainment
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